Food Plating:
How to Make Your Dishes Look Stunning

You don’t have to work in a professional kitchen to serve beautiful food. Whether you’re designing elegant plating for a dinner party, hoping to show off to your Insta followers, or just creating a pretty plate for your partner, you can make any dish look stunning! After putting together your newest healthy recipe, check out a few of these food-plating tips to discover how to elevate your dish to the max!

1. Choose a Neutral Dish

Many fine dining establishments put just as much thought into their dishes as they do into their menu items—and you should too! You might want to explore a new set of platters to guarantee a stunning design, but you can easily work with what you have at home. Even a simple, white plate can be the foundation of a beautiful plating design.

  • Use white or neutral-colored plates to prevent bold, bright colors and designs from competing visually with your food. Some of the best colors for plates include charcoal, pastel blue, and beige.
  • Choose curved plates or platters to cup dishes that tend to spread, like rice or paté. Use square or rectangular dishes for structured food, like sandwiches or burgers. Mimicking the shape of the plate with your food directs the eye where you want it to go.

2. Suggest Abundance

People are most attracted to food when it looks fresh and abundant. They respond well to bright green herbs, beautiful colors, and caramelization, so you want to set the stage (or plate) to showcase all those different aspects.

  • Pile your food up rather than spreading it out. Whether it’s meatloaf or acai bowls with fresh fruit, place all the pieces one on top of the other to create a sense of abundance.
  • Use the rule of three to make your food aesthetically pleasing. You don’t always want things to look perfectly even, so odd-numbered items are the way to go. Place a protein next to two sides or three meatballs on your vegetable pasta.
  • Leave negative space around the edges of your plate. When you provide that extra room, you draw the eyes to the food while simultaneously preventing the plate from feeling overstuffed.

3. Clean It Up!

As one of the simplest ways to make your plate look finished, this tip is overlooked quite often. After you plate your dish, but before you garnish, swipe the rim with a clean towel or cloth. Get all those fingerprints, smudges, and splashes off so your dish looks clean and organized.

If there are any troublesome spots of stuck or crusted food, combine a little white vinegar and water to wipe it off (but skip the soap). Go easy on the vinegar, though, so your dishes don’t end up getting overwhelmed by that strong smell.

4. Finish With a Garnish

The garnish is the final touch of every plating design. It may include fresh herbs, a swipe of sour cream, or a dollop of crème fraîche to top your dish with the final bit of sparkle. While you don’t have to add a garnish, this final piece truly completes the visual appeal of the dish with a delicate topper, like a hat or a necklace completes your favorite outfit.

Many dishes have a traditional garnish, including:

If you’re not sure what the garnish is for a particular dish, the Internet is your friend! You can also decide on your own garnish due to tastes and preferences. Looking for a garnish to put on yogurt? You have tons of different types of fruit and granola to choose from. Hoping to elevate your egg salad? There’s parsley, dill, and even green onions to play that role!

Experiment to Create Your Style

Many professional chefs and restaurants have an aesthetic that develops as they expand their plating style. When you start practicing on every dish you make, you’ll discover yours, too. Whether your plating is abstract, minimalist, or linear, you’ll find something that speaks to you!

Images from Unsplash. 

Julia Nikolaus

Julia Nikolaus is a freelance content strategist. She enjoys working with food and drink brands along with beauty and fashion clients. In her free time, Julia likes to bake new recipes, take dance classes, and spend time outdoors.

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